I don’t seek out tearjerkers. Sometimes people want to read a sad book, I don’t know why—perhaps because a good cry is cathartic, or they feel a need to commiserate, or to wallow, or just to feel something strongly… Whatever the reason, it’s not wrong. The reason people choose what to read is never wrong, it’s just what they gravitate towards in the moment, and that is the beauty of choice. Even though I don’t actively seek out sad books, they still happen. Think about it, you sit down to watch a movie that you know a little about, and it ends up making you cry. You didn’t anticipate it, but that’s how it goes. I don’t cry easily or very often, so it’s rare for a book to move me to tears (like actually needing a tissue). When they do, though, holy cow. That book becomes indelibly marked in my memory. I remember—not only what was happening in the book when I cried, but what year it was, where I was sitting, what position I was sitting in, and what I did immediately after putting the book down. Before I tell you what these books were, I would like to note that the emotion elicited by books (or movies, or music for that matter) is exceedingly personal and context matters. For instance, a book that made me lie on the kitchen floor and blubber like a baby would very likely have little effect on me now. All I’m saying is that reading a book about death right after your beloved grandmother dies may be a trigger (speaking from personal experience). At any rate, here, in no particular order, are a few that had that effect on me:
Before I Die by Jenny Downham
A terminally ill teenager makes a bucket list of what she wants to do before she dies. See above about blubbering on the kitchen floor…
Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
A big fat dusty tale of the old west with so much heart. I spent roughly a month with these lovable characters (it’s 960 pages!). I was suffering from a bout of pneumonia at the time, so escaping into their world was most welcome, and at times, very intense.
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
The now contemporary classic about a high school girl finding her voice, her strength, and powerful artistic expression while working through the horrific trauma of being raped. I mean… I didn’t really stand a chance here.
The Great Believers By Rebecca Makkai
A book about the AIDS crisis set in 1980s Chicago. Let’s just say there was a beautifully wrenching moment with a cat that utterly destroyed me.
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
I don’t even need to provide an explanation here, do I?
Honorable mention: I’ll be There by Holly Goldberg Sloan, and Me Before You by JoJo Moyes. What books made you cry? Leave ’em in the comments!